Thinking About New Hardware

I’m thinking about replacing my desktop and laptop, but I’m not sure which way to go. In this post I want to explain my needs and hopefully get some help from you.

I started out by posting the question on Fosstodon, but quickly realised that 500 characters isn’t enough for me to talk about this subject properly. So, here we are…

My current setup

I have quite a lot of hardware already, but my main devices are my Laptop (a gen 2 Lenovo X1 Carbon from 2014) and a home built desktop, also from 2014.

My desktop and laptop are used interchangeably for the most part, but with COVID I’m currently working from home, so using my desktop a lot more as it has 2 monitors.

I mostly use my laptop for writing posts and doing a bit of coding. I’m actually writing this post from my laptop, all while the kids run around crazy – it’s hard to concentrate so please forgive me if this post isn’t very coherent. ๐Ÿ™‚

My system specs

I thought it would be useful to provide my current system specs, just so you guys know what I’m working with at the moment.

My laptop

Like I said, my laptop is a second generation Lenovo X1 Carbon. It has the following system specs:

  • 4th Gen Intelยฎ Coreโ„ข i7-4600U (3.30GHz)
  • 14.0″ HD screen (1600×900)
  • Intelยฎ HD Graphics 4400
  • 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz
  • 256GB SSD M.2 eDrive

My desktop

This is a home built affair that’s been upgraded a couple of times since I first built it back in 2014. Here are the specs:

  • AMD FX-6300 (3.5GHz)
  • 2x 24″ HD (1080p) monitors
  • 16GB DDR3 1333MHz
  • Radeon RX560 (4GB RAM)
  • 1TB SSD Windows 10
  • 1TB SSD Pop!_OS

What I use my devices for

I’m not much of a gamer. I play some Minecraft on both devices, and the odd game from Steam, but that’s very rare. I certainly play no AAA titles or anything like that. if I were to get back into gaming, I’d probably get a console.

What I mostly use my devices for is writing posts like this, surfing the web, and writing code. The most common applications I use are:

  • Firefox (web browser)
  • Typora (writing posts in markdown)
  • Atom (code editor)
  • Filezilla (FTP)
  • Inkscape (vector graphics)
  • The GIMP (image editor)
  • Signal (private messaging)
  • Spotify (music)
  • Keybase (encrypted chat)
  • Minecraft (fun game)

I also use my desktop for work, but we have remote virtual desktops that we log into, so I don’t need any kind of powerhouse machine for that.

Why I want to upgrade

Based on my usage, you probably think that I don’t need to upgrade. I certainly don’t tax my machines, that’s for sure. But the hardware is getting old and there are things that the machines don’t have that I’d like.

For example, my desktop doesn’t have USB 3.0. You may think that’s easily fixed with a PCI card on the motherboard, but I don’t have space for that because of the graphics card (it’s a micro ATX board/case).

My laptop’s battery is pretty poor now too; only giving me around 2 hours of usage on a good day. Unfortunately, because this is an “ultra book” there’s no way for me to easily replace the battery.

My options

The way I see it there are a number of options I have available to me. Each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Option 1: new desktop & laptop

Pretty much a direct replacement for what I have now, only more up to date. The advantage of this is that I have exactly the same workflow I do now.

The obvious disadvantage here is that this option is going to be very expensive and my wife will not be happy!

Option 2: new laptop with dock

The second option is that I go for an all singing, all dancing laptop with a dock. The advantage of this is that I have all my devices in one place – I have my laptop for on the go, and I can dock it to my screens etc. when I need to. It will also be cheaper than buying a new desktop and laptop.

However, there’s a couple of disadvantages here too. Firstly, it’s a single point of failure. If my laptop breaks, I have no device I can use. Secondly, laptops aren’t as upgradable as desktops, so I’d likely get less life out of a laptop alone.

Option 3: the middle ground

I think there’s a potential middle ground here, where I replace my desktop with a more up to date and pretty powerful device. Then replace my laptop with something middle of the road. Maybe something like a Pinebook Pro if it can run the apps I’ve listed above.

That way I have my laptop that I can use for writing posts, coding and surfing the web (let’s be honest, I don’t need much power for that). And I have my desktop for when I need to do any heavy lifting.

I also then still have 2 devices in case one fails.

Note: What ever laptop I buy, it can be no bigger than 14″. I like small, ultrabook style laptops.

Conclusion

There is no conclusion here yet. That’s why I need your help! What do you think I should do? What would you do in my position?

I don’t really need to replace my hardware, and I’m in no rush to do so. What I have at the moment works well, I’d just like my setup to be better.

First world problems, eh?

What do you think? Option 1, 2, 3, or maybe something else entirely? Or, should I stop being an entitled brat and be happy with what I’ve got?

I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below to tell me what you think…

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